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I'm back with more findings from the science of learning! This week, I'm featuring two articles that focus on the following questions:

  • Does immersive virtual reality increase learning?
  • Do interpolated questions improve podcast listeners' knowledge acquisition and retention?

You'll also find information about the upcoming Learning Engineering Tools Competition. Enjoy, and thanks for reading!

Does immersive virtual reality increase learning?

In a recent study that investigated the instructional effectiveness of using an interactive immersive virtual reality (IVR) simulation compared with watching a video, researchers reported that the group using IVR did not learn more than their peers who simply watched a video. Learners did, however, report liking the virtual reality experience more. Researchers report that this is consistent with most previous research on the use of IVR for learning.

Key Finding: The results from this study demonstrated that the video was just as good as IVR for learning.

Read More ($): Makransky, G., Andreasen, N. K., Baceviciute, S., & Mayer, R. E. (2021). Immersive virtual reality increases liking but not learning with a science simulation and generative learning strategies promote learning in immersive virtual reality. Journal of Educational Psychology, 113(4), 719–735.

Do embedded questions during a podcast improve knowledge acquisition and retention?

Are podcasts a part of your instructional program? If so, you may consider incorporating interpolated questions -- in other words, embedding questions for listeners to consider throughout the content -- to enhance knowledge retention. We know that this technique can improve test scores during live and recorded lectures, and in a recent study with medical students, learners who listened to a podcast with interpolated questions performed about 6% better on a knowledge test 2-3 weeks afterwards, compared to their peers who listened to the same podcast without those questions. Researchers admit it’s a modest improvement at best, but given the increased interest in podcasts and their potential for usage as instructional delivery mechanisms, this is an important study as we begin to understand the place of podcasts in education.

Key Finding: Podcasts with interpolated questions can enhance learners’ knowledge acquisition and retention more than podcasts without interpolated questions.

Read More ($): Weinstock et al. (2020). Effect of Interpolated Questions on Podcast Knowledge Acquisition and Retention: A Double-Blind, Multicenter, Randomized Controlled Trial. _Annals of Emergency Medicine, 76(_3), 353-361.

Embedding questions in video lectures has been shown to decrease mind wandering, increase learners’ ability to sustain attention, encourage task-relevant note taking, improve learning and enjoyment, and result in improved examination scores (Weinstock et al., 2020).

Learning Engineering Tools Competition

Join the team from the Futures Forum on Learning on July 7th from 12pm - 1:30pm ET as they kick off the next round of the Learning Engineering Tools Competition 2021. The project aims to support new tools that will improve student learning and advance the field of learning engineering. The competition will award at least $3 million in prizes to education technologists, researchers, teachers, and students. The competition will also support the development of new tools to accelerate learning, improve K-12 assessment, refine adult education, and develop new research tools. Register here.

Pets of Learning Science Weekly

This week we're featuring a picture of Biscuit, the adorable kitten companion of reader Grace D., who says, "He loves to play fetch, chew on shoes, and snuggle!" SUPER CUTE!! 😍

Send me (hi, I'm Julia) your pet pics at

Wondering why we’re including animal photos in a learning science newsletter? It may seem weird, we admit. But we’re banking on the baby schema effect and the “power of Kawaii.” So, send us your cute pet pics -- you’re helping us all learn better!

The LSW Crew

Learning Science Weekly is written and edited by Julia Huprich, Ph.D. Our head of growth and community is Julieta Cygiel.

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